I challenged myself to make some wall art from scrap wood. I found a cool geometric picture of a whale so I made it into a huge piece of art.
This project is out of my comfort zone for a few reasons. First, while I did attend art school, I would not call myself an artist. I love solving problems and typically, I don’t see a lack of art in my house as a problem. However, I do want to make my wife happy, and I thought I could make her a fun piece of art using some scrap wood. This began by searching the internet for a geometric animal image. My wife loves whales, so I found one that broken up by color. I then took this image into Adobe Illustrator and traced over the geometric lines and grouping the colors together into separate layers. It turns out, that the whale only had three color groups that I could match to different wood tones; walnut, cedar, and maple.
After scaling the whale up in Illustrator to around 36 inches (90 cm), I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough scrap wood of each species to make the necessary pieces. Then I had the idea of further breaking up the geometric nature of the whale by rotating the individual segments. This rotation of each piece would mix up the grain pattern of the scrap wood and look pretty cool. With this change, I could arrange the color-grouped pieces onto much smaller pieces of wood by nesting them together. I found out that I could fit a lot of the small whale pieces on pieces of wood i fished out of the trash can, not just my scrap bin. After each color group was cut on the CNC or by hand using paper templates, I could fit the whale together like a puzzle.
The scrap wood whale could be mounted straight to the wall of our bedroom as it is. But to cover some space and to add more to the art pieces, I want to build a frame around it and fill in the empty space with white epoxy resin. For continuity, I used cedar for the outer frame and a thin sheet of MDF as the backer. I cut some strips of cedar on the table saw and added a rabbet groove to one side. After cutting the 45-degree angles on the miter saw, I could glue the frame and backboard together, securing it all with pin nails.
Once dried, I assembled the geometric wooden whale in the center of the frame and glued all the pieces together. I also ran a bead of glue around the perimeter of the whale to keep any resin from seeping under it. Before pouring the resin, I applied some polyurethane varnish to the whole piece. I have found that applying finish before doing the resin pour does a few things. First, it keeps the resin from soaking into the wood making dark spots that won’t sand away. Secondly, I helps maintain a super glossy finish on the resin since ai don’t have to worry about applying finish to it.
Now it is time to add the pop of color to our scrap wood art piece, the sea of white resin that our whale will be suspended in. If you have any questions about choosing and using resins, we made a Bits video all about it! I mixed up some thickset resin from Total Boat, but because I only plan on pouring a thin layer, you could use any resin. Before I mixed up the two parts of the epoxy resin together, I used some white, opaque alcohol ink to dye one part. I thoroughly mixed the resin together and poured it into the sealed frame space. You have to be sure the entire frame is level on your work surface before pouring, or it will pool to one side.
I did two thin pours because the white dye wasn’t as opaque as I’d hoped. But once the second coat cured, it looked absolutely amazing! The resin dries to a high gloss, which I wouldn’t normally be a fan of. But the mixture of glossy, clean white resin and the rough scrap wood make this art piece look really nice. I am really happy with how this whole project turned out. Maybe I’ll force myself to make some art more often!
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- SawStop cabinet saw
- Dewalt Miter Saw
- Orbital Sander
- Pancake compressor/nail gun combo
- Grizzly 14″ Bandsaw
- Jet Drum Sander
- Shop Fox Hanging Air Filter
- 2HP Dust Collector
- 1 Micron bag
- Classic steel ruler (cork backed)
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